Thursday, 1 February 2018

A license to kill

While most people's attention recently will probably have been on the British government's continuing shambolic handling of Brexit elsewhere there was another major news story which in its own way is every bit as important as the brexit story, and which represents a grim reminder of past British governments involvement in events on the island of Ireland.

On Monday it was reported that Gary Haggarty - a british state informer for 11 years in the outlawed Ulster Volunteer Force - had seen his 35 year prison sentence for his involvement in sectarian murders reduced to just 6 years, with Haggarty only likely to serve half of the 6 year sentence. The cut in his sentence in effect means Haggarty will serve less than a year in prison for each of the innocent people he killed during his involvement with the UVF, a move which prompted understandable outrage from the relatives of Haggarty's victims.The judgement from Belfast Crown Court indicated that the 35-year jail term was reduced by 75% for the assistance he was said to have given police and prosecutors and then a further 25% for Haggarty's plea of guilty.The judge said that the 202 offences admitted by Haggarty had been committed during a "terrorist campaign over a 16-year period".

Haggarty is said to have provided information about 55 UVF murders and 20 attempted murders However, only one person was jailed as a result of Haggarty’s evidence. While others in the UVF who he named will not face prosecution because the state ruled it did not have enough additional evidence to charge them. So what all this means is that when Gary Haggarty was killing and maiming innocent people with the loyalist terrorists of the UVF he was reporting back on their activities to his handlers in British army intelligence. Which begs the questions - why wasnt he stopped from carrying out these murders? And why weren't the other attacks he knew the UVF were carrying out stopped?

Then on Tuesday this week it was reported that another british state informer during the troubles - the infamous 'stakeknife' - had been arrested and detained by Police in southern England as part of Operation Kenova. 'Stakeknife' was Frederick Scappaticci. Scappaticci was a key figure in the IRA’s so called ‘nutting squad’ and was responsible for its internal security. A large part of his role in the organisation involved interrogating suspected informers, and sometimes – on Scappatticci’s say so – these suspected informers would be executed and dumped on roadsides or buried in unmarked graves.

Just under 15 years ago a former operative in British army intelligence (ian hurst) posing under the pseudonym of 'martin ingram' wrote a book with the journalist Greg Harkin which revealed that Scappaticci had been a british agent for decades and had been allowed to carry on his his grim role within the IRA so long as he passed information on to his british handlers about IRA operations and personnel. More than that it’s believed Scappaticci used his role as interrogator in chief in the IRA to carry out the execution of committed republicans - under the guise that they were informers - at the behest of british army intelligence.

Of course Scappaticci and Haggarty were far from being the only operatives acting on the instruction of British intelligence during ‘the troubles’. Denis Donaldson had been a major figure in the republican movement for decades before he was outed as a spy in 2005. While Brian Nelson was a British agent in the loyalist paramilitary group the UDA. Nelson helped supply loyalist death squads with weapons and explosives and was involved in the numerous killings of republicans and nationalists – among them the murder of the republican solicitor and civil rights activist pat finucane

But thanks to the bravery in coming forward of former British army intelligence operatives like Colin Wallace and Fred Holroyd, and the excellent research of Anne Cadwallader of the Pat Finucane center, we now know that loyalist terror groups in the north of Ireland were in part armed and directed by the British intelligence services. With perhaps the most notorious example of this being the involvement of the SAS captain Robert Nairac in the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings and the roadside massacre of the popular Irish music group the Miami Showband.

Between them the likes of Haggarty, Scappaticci and Nelson were responsible for scores of killings. They knew that as paid informants of the british intelligence services they were virtually untouchable and free to kill as they wished. In effect their status as prized informers - 'Jewels' as a senior British army figure described them - gave them a license to kill and to literally get away with murder. Furthermore it's inconceivable that senior figures in the british government's of the day ie Thatcher and Major wouldn't have been advised of the murderous activities of the likes of Scappaticci and Nelson.

Useful links 

Panorama programme on Scappaticci

RTE documentary on Denis Donaldson

No comments:

Post a Comment